Community Inclusion for People With Developmental Disabilities: Measuring An Elusive Construct
Since the early 1970s, community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities has been a major theme in developmental disability policy, practice, and research (Wolfensberger, 1972). Much of the focus has been on moving people from large institutional settings into smaller community homes (Thorn, Pittman, Myers, & Slaughter, 2009) and placing people in jobs in community settings (Lysaght & Verginie Hamilton, 2012). Although community inclusion has been a major theme, a clear definition of the construct remains elusive. One difficulty has centered on how to develop meaningful inclusion experiences that involve people with disabilities as productive members of society (Wolfensberger, 2003). Another difficulty has been around defining the domains of community inclusion (Martin & Cobigo, 2011).
Most prior measures have been developed with residents of large group settings in mind (Martin & Cobigo, 2011; Thorn, Pittman, Myers, & Slaughter, 2009). Little research has examined the development of a community inclusion measure for people who live with their family or a measure that is appropriate for survey research. This study sought to create a measure of community inclusion that could be used in survey research with parents and caregivers.
One hundred thirty-six caregivers participated in an anonymous, online survey to gauge interest in a planning project that would increase knowledge of community services. A community inclusion measure was included with eleven items coded 1=almost never to 5=almost always. The measure was designed by: 1) reviewing domains of community inclusion in the literature, and 2) using a panel of local developmental disability experts to review the measure and give feedback.
Data were analyzed in SPSS and Mplus 6.0. Missing Value Analysis was used to estimate the scores on missing items. Correlations between the eleven items in the original scale were examined. Cronbach’s alpha was used to evaluate the internal consistency of the scale. Exploratory Factor Analysis was used to uncover the underlying structure of the data. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was used to test model fit.
Internal consistency of the initial eleven item scale was good at .853. The initial EFA extracted two factors. Three items loaded onto a second factor and were cut from the scale. CFA indicated that the eight item scale model had a moderate fit. One item did not have a strong loading and was cut from the model. The final seven item scale had good fit (CFI=.991, RMSEA=.040, SRMR=.036). Internal consistency of the seven item scale was re-evaluated and the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient remained high at .831.
The final scale contained seven items: 1) work or volunteer work, 2) recreation activities, 3) shopping, 4) using transportation, 5) going to movies, out to eat, or other entertainment, 6) church or religious activities, and 7) friendships or relationships with people who do NOT have disabilities.
Implications and Conclusions
Measures of community inclusion that can be used in survey research or as screening tools are lacking. Although further study is needed, the proposed measure has promise for being a useful tool in future research and practice.